Michael Luseni, the Executive Director of Economic Empowerment and Human Rights Sierra Leone said the organisation is implementing a six-month project called ‘Education and Life Skills Training for Teenage Pregnant Girls in Bombali district’, with funding from ‘Amplify Change-UK’.
The director disclosed that one of the key components of the project is to support at a time; twenty (20) teenage pregnant girls into life skills training institutions in order to be trained and become self-reliant as teenage mothers, to be able to independently take care of themselves and their babies. He enjoined: “This will be accompanied by psychosocial counseling and family-tracing and integration for particularly those that have separated from their original families”.
Luseni reiterated that the project also establishes School Health Clubs in ten (10) schools across Bombali district, north of Sierra Leone, on sexual and reproductive health rights for teenagers and young girls below the ages of eighteen and twenty, adding that a ‘Training Manual’ will be used for the school health club training sessions; after school hours, and for a period of at least two hours.
He added: “The teenagers that would have undergone the training as school health clubs members will have to serve as peer educators in their various schools and communities. They will have to receive certificates after completion of the training”. He also disclosed that the project will be carrying out special trainings for policymakers, community stakeholders, NGOs/CBOs, and government line ministries on human rights and sexual and reproductive health rights (justices), with emphasis on the role of leaders to addressing sexual reproductive health issues in their various communities as a means of reducing teenage pregnancy, unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS, among young people plus advocacy engagement.
Michael Luseni edified that in most African traditions particularly in Sierra Leone, neither parents nor the educational institutions provide such guidance on sexual reproductive health issues. As a result he furthered, the adolescents have been learning from each other about sexual issues, but are most times full of misconceptions and prejudices. “In the process of trial and error, the adolescents usually end up in risky sexual behaviours with grave health consequences such as unwanted pregnancy, STIs, and HIV/AIDS”, the director noted.
He elaborated that the transition of the adolescent to adulthood has always been surrounded by many challenges including bodily changes that are not commonly well understood by young people; and for many young people, adolescence is a confusing and stressful stage, particularly without the proper care.
He emphasised: “They have different needs than the adults because of their physical and psychological stages. Most importantly, they have different cognitive abilities and skills that require different forms of counselling approaches and enough time. Nonetheless, they have been less informed despite the adequate information they require at all times. In other words, the conflicts between cultural/parental expectations and the adolescents are emerging values that present very serious challenges for young people”.
According to the director, life-long health habits are established in adolescence, for which interventions can help them make good decisions and take responsibility for their actions in lieu to prevent serious negative consequences in the future. He stressed that there are many effective channels for reaching the adolescent including schools, religious teachings, institutions, youth organisations, community and recreational activities, parental communication, peer education, the media and health service facilities. For these reasons, Michael Lamin concluded: “Our aim of establishing the sexual and reproductive health club in schools is to create positive sexual health choices; make informed decisions on sexual matters; practice healthy sexual behaviours; recognising and avoiding situations and behaviours that are likely to pose risks to sexual health issues”.
Two beneficiaries: Isatu Kargbo-a Hair Dressing student and Mariama Turay-who does computer studies expressed thanks and appreciations to the organisation. They commended the executive director and the management of the organisation for the what they called a timely boost, while encourage the organisation to do more for others that are in similar situation.
Meanwhile, the Economic Empowerment and Human Rights-Sierra Leone, situated at 12 Police Barracks Road, Makeni, is a Community Based Organisation established since 2010. It focuses on the promotion and protection of women and children in the rural communities of Sierra Leone. It works to improve on sexual and reproductive health issues of the adolescents through establishment of Schools Health Clubs in schools across Bombali district, with the primary aim of changing the attitudes and behaviours of the adolescents on improved sexual lifestyle by preventing teenage pregnancy, abortion, STIs, HIV/AIDS and other sexual reproductive health complications wherein the adolescent can efficiently learn from each other. It has also been involved in community development, promotion of democracy and protection of human rights, with special focus on the International Convenient on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.